HMO OVERSIGHT: Davis Conducts Closed-Door Meetings
Gov. Gray Davis has held about a dozen secret meetings over eight weeks on the topic of HMO regulation, calling together industry leaders, consumer advocates and administration officials, the AP/Capitol Alert reports. The meetings were organized by state Health and Human Services Secretary Grantland Johnson and Maria Contreras-Sweet, Davis' adviser on business and transportation. Davis is expected to "use the resulting recommendations to propose changes in the state's oversight of managed care plans covering nearly 25 million Californians." Sources say that draft documents from the sessions make it seem likely that Davis will move to transfer state oversight of managed care plans from the Department of Corporations to a new state agency, parallel to the Department of Health Services and under the state HHS secretary. Participants said the meetings also covered issues such as patients' rights, costs, provider training, staffing and experimental treatment. Davis "has given few clues about where he is leaning." Hilary McLean, Davis' spokesperson, said, "There are no public documents because these are confidential discussions between his secretaries and their designees. Their task was to come up with options for the governor." That issue, however, has riled some. First Amendment advocate Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Media and Politics at Sacramento State University, said, "They have this nice cozy deal, and when you're trying to mediate hot issues you're looking for a safe haven. This has happened before in telephone and electrical restructuring. They think, why talk to constituents? But they will need to have affirmation later in a public setting." However, Walter Zelman, of the California Association of Health Plans, said a governor "has every right to make policy as he or she sees fit, and that includes private discussions" (Howard, 6/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.